Zayd ibn Suhan al-Abdi came to Ali, asking:
O commander of the faithful, what kind of sovereignty is the most overwhelming and powerful?
Base desire, he replied.
Which vileness is vilest? he asked.
Greed for worldly things, he replied.
Which is the most painful loss?
Becoming a disbeliever and losing one’s faith.
Which supplication goes astray?
The one for something that can never be.
Which act is the most meritorious?
Consciousness of God.
Which act brings the most success?
The quest for God’s reward.
Who is the worst friend?
The one who tempts you into sin.
Who is the strongest of people?
The one who controls his anger.
Who is the nastiest wretch?
The one who sells his faith to please another.
Who is the most miserly?
The one who misappropriates property and uses it for unlawful ends.
Who is the smartest?
An errant man who sees the right path and turns toward it.
Who is the most mature?
The one who never flies into a rage.
Who is the most steadfast?
The one whom people cannot deceive, and who does not yield to the temptations of this bejeweled world.
Who is the biggest fool?
The one who is seduced by this world, even though he sees what is in her and observes her fickle state.
Who will have the most grievous regrets?
The one who is deprived of this world and the hereafter.
Who is the most blind?
The one who performs acts to please someone other than God, yet expects a reward from God.
What is the best form of contentment?
That of one who is satisfied with what God has given him.
Which is the severest calamity?
That which shakes your faith.
Which act does God like best?
Patient waiting for deliverance.
Who is the most virtuous person in God’s sight?
The one who fears God, cultivates patience and piety, and rejects worldliness.
Which words are the most meritorious in God’s sight?
Words spoken in remembrance of God, in supplication to him, and in prayer.
What is the truest assertion?
The testimony that “There is no god but God.”
What kind of belief does God like best?
One that encompasses acceptance and restraint.
Who is the noblest of men?
The one who fights gallantly in battle, holds back his tongue from uttering falsehoods, commands good, and forbids wickedness.
A Treasury of Virtues: A collection by the Fatimid Shafi'i judge al-Quda'i (d. 454 H/1062 AD) of sayings, sermons, and teachings attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib (d. 40 H/661 AD). Translated by Tahera Qutbuddin.